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New policy could affect area immigrants

WORTHINGTON -- Hundreds of thousands of young, educated, illegal immigrants may get the opportunity to stay in the United States and work under a new policy announced Friday by the Obama administration, but it will take a few weeks until requests can be accepted.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced Friday that, effective immediately, certain young people brought to the United States as young children who meet certain criteria would be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Beginning Monday, the announcement stated, individuals could call the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hotline or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hotline for more information.

Monday, however, the USCIS website stated eligible individuals should not submit a deferred action request, because the request would be rejected. Napolitano's directive gives USCIS 60 days to create a process in which to accept the requests, but is unable to accept them at this time.

"In the coming weeks, USCIS will outline and announce the procedures by which individuals can engage in this process. This process is not yet in effect and requests should not be submitted at this time," the ICE website also states.

To be considered for the deferred action process, the individual must have come to the United States while under the age of 16, and "brought to the U.S. through no fault of their own," the announcement states.

They must have resided in the U.S. for at least five years proceeding June 15, 2012, and must be present in the U.S. on that date. The individual must be currently in school, have graduated from high school or obtained a general education development certificate or be an honorably discharged veteran of the United States military.

The individual cannot have been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense or otherwise pose a threat to national security of public safety, and they must not be above the age of 30.

Only those who can prove they meet the criteria through certifiable documentation will be eligible, and the deferred action requests will be decided on a case-by-case basis. The Department of Homeland Security states there is no assurance that all cases will be granted.

According to Nobles County Attorney Kathleen Kusz, it is hard to gauge what the impact to the community will be, as the county office does not track cases involving illegal immigrants. Those cases are handled federally, and have never been part of the county's responsibilities.

"I don't know how many people we have in that age group," Kusz said. "The federal government does deportation and we have never acted as an informational source directly. We don't go running to ICE to say we've found an illegal person. The Nobles County Attorney's Office does not have an obligation to do so."

Deferred action does not confer lawful status upon a person or provide a path to citizenship, USCIS stated.

John Keller of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota said the plan may be a life-changer for up to 800,000 young people in the country.

"It is important to note that this policy will not lead to citizenship for these individuals," Keller said. "However, it will remove the danger of deportation during a time when many hundreds of thousands of educated, employable individuals are living in limbo, and give them the opportunity to work legally and continue to strengthen their communities."

The deferred action is for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and no limit to the amount of renewals an individual can have is currently in place.